Sony offers freebies to identity theft victims
Sony has offered customers a compensation packet to try and entice users back to the PlayStation network, following an earlier security breach.
Customers can pick two free PS3 games, out of an offering of five, and will also get a month's free membership to premium services. Existing PlayStation Plus customers will get 60 days free service.
Personal details have been stolen from an estimated three million Sony PlayStation Network users in Britain. This includes credit card data as well as billing history - and the breach is estimated to have affected up to 70 million customers worldwide.
Names, addresses, dates of birth, passwords, login details, security questions and answers have also been accessed.
The "illegal and unauthorised intrusion" took place between 17 and 19 April and was alarming enough for Sony to temporary turn off its PlayStation Network service a week ago to begin an investigation.
But the network was turned off for five days before an official statement was released by Sony, angering PlayStation users.
Posting on the Playstation.Blog, Ratchet426 said: "Five days to come to the conclusion that credit card data might have been compromised seems about four days too long."
Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications and social media, says the reason for the delay in informing customers was because "it was necessary to conduct several days of forensic analysis, and it took our experts until yesterday to understand the scope of the breach."
The size of the breach and the extent of information stolen makes it much larger than any other recent data thefts from companies including Marks and Spencers, Play.com and TripAdvisor.
The company is advising people to be extra vigilant of email, telephone and postal scams asking for personal or sensitive information and when the network is running again people should login and change their passwords.
James Jones, head of consumer affairs at Experian, says the spate of recent online attacks should make people more vigilant with their details.
"Complacency is one of the fraudsters biggest weapons and people should check their statements every month and be particularly careful online as this is where most hackers are now concentrating their efforts," he adds.
Have you been affected? What can you do?
Make sure you are extra aware of scams and change your password when the PlayStation Network is back online. Sony says it will not contact you in any way, including by email, asking for your credit card details or any other personal information.
Check your bank statements and make sure every payment has been made by you. If your account has been accessed it's likely the fraudsters will begin by making small payments which can easily be missed.
Who can I contact?
If you think your details are being used fraudulently, first contact your bank or credit card provider. If you need to contact Sony directly, it has set up a special phone number related to this issue (0844 736 0595) or you can find more details on its website.
What if I've been targeted and lost money?
You should contact your credit or debit card provider directly as it is obliged to refund any money lost due to the theft of your details as long as you were not negligent with your card.
The Consumer Credit Act, which covers the theft of credit, states that the customer is not liable to the creditor for any loss arising from misuse of credit facilities.
The Banking Code, which covers theft of a person's money, for example from a current account, states that a victim of identity fraud is only liable for their loss if they acted 'without reasonable care' – this includes writing down their PIN, failing to take due care of their card or failing to inform their provider about any loss or theft.
If your reimbursement claim is rejected then you have the right to apply to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
How can I check my credit score?
If you think you may have been a victim, you can check your credit card history through a credit reference agency like Callcredit, Equifax or Experian for £2 to make sure there has been no suspicious activity.
How can I improve my credit card rating if I've been a victim of fraud?
If someone has access to your personal details, they are then potentially able to apply for credit cards in your name. These applications are all marked on your credit score and if you are a victim of credit card fraud it's possible to claim back any money lost, but it can be a lengthy process to clear your credit history.
How can I prevent becoming a victim in the future?
Never follow email links to websites (financial or retail) and always manually enter in the address. Keep account details and passwords secret and choose different passwords for each website or account. Your bank will never contact you to disclose security information, ignore emails asking for confidential information.
What should I watch out for when buying things online?
Check your anti-virus software is up-to-date and always use a personal firewall. Sign up to use a secure payment method like Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode which will verify every online payment and before entering any banking information, look for the padlock symbol in the lower toolbar, towards the bottom of the screen.
Issued by a bank as part of a current account and, in a nutshell, serves as electronic cash. Unlike a credit or charge card, where you get an interest-free period before you have to settle the bill, the funds spent on a debit card are withdrawn immediately from your current account. Unless you’ve arranged an overdraft, if you don’t have the cash in the account, you can’t spend it.
If you’ve have a complaint about a financial service product you have bought but the company you bought it from refuses to resolve your problem after eight weeks, the Ombudsman can help. The Ombudsman will investigate and resolve the matter. The Ombudsman is independent and its service is free to consumers. The Ombudsman may find in the company’s favour but consumers don’t have accept its decision and are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an Ombudsman’s decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.
An account opened with a clearing bank (few building societies offer current accounts) that provides the ability to draw cash (usually via a debit card) or cheques from the account. Some pay fairly minimal rates of interest if the account is in credit. Most current accounts insist your monthly income (salary or pension) is paid directly in each month and they offer a number of optional services – such as overdrafts and charge cards – which are negotiable but will incur fees.
Your credit score is a three-digit number (ranging from a low of 300 to a high of 850) calculated from the information in your credit report. Your credit score enables lenders to determine how much of a credit risk you are. Basically, a low credit score indicates you present a higher risk of defaulting on your debt obligations than someone with a high score. If you have a low credit score, any products you successfully apply for will carry a higher rate of interest commensurate with this risk.
Credit card fraud
Credit cardholders can be defrauded in a number of ways: “skimming”, when someone copies the data from your card’s magnetic strip onto another card without your knowledge (in shops, bars and restaurants); stolen or lost cards being used by thieves; and postal interceptions where the card the bank sends you never gets delivered. Another way is through identity fraud, where criminals get hold of a utility bill, a bank statement or some other form of personal information so that they can take out credit cards, loans or mortgages in your name.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.